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September 2017
4

Auditing your readers

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Sep 27, 2017

 

Businesses, big and small, do frequent audits to gauge their success. They inventory product. They perform extensive ROI (return on investment) on advertising and marketing campaigns. They research and evaluate the demographics of their customer base. They evaluate the effectiveness of their workforce. They look at everything from the amount of money they spend on staples to the salaries of executive officers, all in the interest of maximizing their productivity.


You are an indie author, which means you are technically a small business owner. You should be auditing your business just like the major corporations. You won't know how to grow unless you know where you stand.


Start with your readers. You might be asking how you can possibly audit your readers. How can you possibly know who your readers are? Because you know your genre. Genres are demographic-specific by design. By-in-large, they attract a common core of readers who are from the same age group and in a lot of cases, the same gender. Depending on your genre, you can even narrow down even further. Find out as much information on the demographic that represents the typical reader of your genre. A simple query with your favorite search engine should get you started. Dive deep. Know their likes, their dislikes, and where they are most likely to share their likes and dislikes with others in their demographics. Know them like you know members of your own family.


Auditing your readers is the best way to build effective marketing campaigns and give you confidence that you are spending your branding time wisely.


-Richard

 

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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Create a reader profile

 

Categories, genres, and subgenres

 

 

 

 

1,431 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: marketing, self-publishing, readers, writing, genre, social_media
2

I'm currently enrolled in a screenwriting program to adapt one of my novels for film. When the instructor brought up the concept of outlines in a recent class, I found myself leaning forward to hear his thoughts. In the eight books I've written, not once have I worked from a detailed outline, and I've always wondered if I was going about it wrong. Would my stories be better if I put more planning into them? I was afraid to know the answer. Several times I've tried to write an outline, at least a bare-bones one, but I've never stuck to it, not even close. In each instance the story went in a different direction, and when I finished the first draft I looked back at the outline and thought, "Well that didn't work out how I thought it would."


Getting back to the class - I was not expecting what the instructor said about outlines, which was essentially that they are worthless because he always ends up throwing them away. But immediately after he said that, he qualified that he was talking about his own experience, and that outlines work great for other people. So once again I found myself wondering if I should learn to use an outline...or not.


In the class I was sitting next to a lawyer, and we got to chatting about our respective projects. He had his entire story outlined in detail and said that was how his brain worked. When I told him I was jealous because my brain does not work that way, he said that he had outlines for several books and screenplays but had never gotten past the outline phase, so he was jealous of me. We laughed at how the grass is always greener.


Do outlines work? Please share your thoughts in the comments. I would love to hear what you have to say! Bottom line though - do what works for you.


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Writing tip: start before you're ready

Writing tip: stay committed to the process

725 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, outline, screenwriting
1

After decades of writing and rewriting, typing my fingers off, pouring my heart and soul out onto page after page after page of prose, after studying my craft, learning the structure of a story, and how to hook the reader in the first sentence and leaving them wanting more after the last word, I have finally figured out how to write the Great American Novel. It's so easy. I don't know how I couldn't figure it out earlier. It's really just a one-step exercise, and lucky you, I am here to share it with you today on this very blog.


Are ready for this? It will blow your mind. In order to write the Great American Novel you must do the following:


1 of 1: Don't try to write the Great American Novel.


We all want to be literary giants. We want to write something that will be taught in English lit classes for the next 100 years where our work is enjoyed, picked apart, interpreted, and misinterpreted by millions of book lovers. We want our name spoken in the same sentence with Hemingway, Lee, McCarthy, Steinbeck, etc. Why? Because that is the pinnacle of success in the publishing world. That's where we leave our mark and our work influences the American culture for generations to come. It's a way to find immortality.


But trying to write the Great American Novel is the surest way not to do so. Just write your story. Practice your craft. Service the characters in your book. Don't worry about the readers. Don't worry how the book will be perceived. Just write.


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Our Responsibility to Language

Use the Chunking Method to Write Your Book

676 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, great_american_novel
7

The emotional brand

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Sep 20, 2017

You may be diligent about keeping your social media accounts active. You may be tweeting umpteen times a day. It's possible that you are updating your status consistently and frequently. Your fingers may even hurt from all the friend and follower engagement you're conducting from your laptop and/or smartphone. You may be putting in more than enough time to expect steady growth in your social media connections which will lead to the expansion of your brand, and ultimately, more book sales. But it's quite possible your activity isn't paying off either.


The question is why do some authors succeed at growing their brand through a rigorous social media strategy and others don't. The answer is usually those who succeed have discovered what truly sets an author brand apart from other brands. That one simple ingredient that so few authors use out of a fear of sharing too much or being too provocative. That one simple ingredient is emotion. An author brand is an emotional brand. It conveys a heart and soul that corporate brands normally steer clear of. You are an artist first and a commodity second.


If you are angry about something in the news or in your neighborhood, convey that anger. If you are embarrassed or happy or sad, share those emotions. You will connect with your community on a deeper level and that will lead to a growth of your brand. In short, give yourself the same kind of emotional depth that you give your characters in your book, and you will find that brand success if you've been looking for.


-Richard


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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

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Evaluating your author brand

The one thing



1,027 Views 7 Comments Permalink Tags: marketing, social, brand, branding, social_media, author_marketing, author_brand
12

 

In a recent post I explained that the seasons of the year should not be capitalized, nor should job titles that don't come directly before a person's name. Here are two other areas in which I frequently see capital letters where they shouldn't be:


Fields of study/work


Unless it's a language, fields of study or work aren't capitalized.


  • Gloria majored in Math. (INCORRECT)
  • Gloria majored in math. (CORRECT)


  • She's not sure yet, but she's thinking about pursuing a career in Physics. (INCORRECT)
  • She's not sure yet, but she's thinking about pursuing a career in physics. (CORRECT)


  • David teaches high school Chemistry. (INCORRECT)
  • David teaches high school chemistry. (CORRECT)


  • Maria studied both english and spanish in college. (INCORRECT)
  • Maria studied both English and Spanish in college. (CORRECT)


  • He's a world-renowned professor of History and French. (INCORRECT)
  • He's a world-renowned professor of history and French. (CORRECT)


Degrees


When spelled out, undergraduate and graduate degrees are not capitalized.


  • Gloria has a Bachelor's Degree from UCLA. (INCORRECT)
  • Gloria has a Bachelor's degree from UCLA. (INCORRECT)
  • Gloria has a bachelor's degree from UCLA. (CORRECT)


  • David wants to get a Master's Degree in chemistry at Harvard. (INCORRECT)
  • David wants to get a Master's degree in chemistry at Harvard. (INCORRECT)
  • David wants to get a master's degree in chemistry at Harvard. (CORRECT)


  • She received a Bachelor's in math and a Master's in English from Berkeley. (INCORRECT)
  • She received a bachelor's in math and a master's in English from Berkeley. (CORRECT)
  • She received degrees in math and English from Berkeley. (CORRECT).


Unfortunately, capitalization rules are frequently flouted on corporate websites and in press releases, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't follow them. Just read any article in a major newspaper and you will see that professional writers still take them seriously.


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Grammar tip: don't overcapitalize

Are you making this common grammar mistake?

2,118 Views 12 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, capitalization, grammar_tip
1

 

Not long ago, I was watching an old thriller from the '40s. It was a Jimmy Stewart movie that was film noir to the Nth degree. The lighting, the attire, the dialogue all pointed to a gritty detective story where the main character relied on wit and guile from scene to scene. It was crime genre candy. It had one small flaw. It didn't impede my enjoyment of the film, but it did momentarily draw me out of the story.


The scenario was this. Stewart's character got a phone call from an associate. The caller was frantic and anxious to talk to our wise-cracking protagonist. Stewart assures the caller that he's curious to hear his news in person when the caller arrives at Stewart's apartment. He hangs up the phone. Less than a minute later the associate knocks on Stewart's door. Astonished, the hero of the story pulls open his apartment door and delivered the following joke: "That was fast. Whud'cha do, call from the car?"


In the late '40s, when the film was released, I'm sure that joke garnered a chuckle or two. Today, it falls flat simply because calling someone from one's car is commonplace. As I said, it didn't ruin the film, but it did give me pause, and veer my thoughts off into a direction about changing technology. As a writer, you want to limit those sorts of pauses as much as possible.


I'm not suggesting you avoid technology as a device to advance your plot or to even tell a flawless joke, but be aware the more your plot relies on contemporary technology the greater the risk of writing a story that will one day be considered dated. The workaround of course is to make the plot rely on character more than technology, even if you're writing a technological thriller. If you make the story about the people, your slips into outdated technology become nostalgic Easter eggs that readers will take note of instead of fixating on.


-Richard


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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Avoid pop culture references

Wordplay: anachronisms in writing

682 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, protagonist, dated_technology
2

Years ago I attended a seminar on book cover design that was hosted by one of the Big Six (at the time) publishers. As an indie author just getting started, I wanted to know all the secrets of the industry. What I discovered is there are no real secrets. There's a quote that comes from John Wanamaker, a department store mogul in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, that embodies what I learned that day in the marketing/cover design seminar. He famously proclaimed, "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half."


 

The only thing that didn't match in his quote is that the success rate in traditional publishing is only about 30 percent. Keep in mind, there are entire departments in major publishing houses with the sole purpose of researching the best way to market a book. These are folks with advanced degrees in some cases that conduct focus groups and use scientific studies to determine what a color represents to a consumer. What font is more appealing on a cover. Are people more likely to buy a book with a human face on the cover or an inanimate object. They explore every little detail.


The presenter at the seminar talked about one particular case involving the European release of a book that had done well in the States. They researched and created mockups and conducted focus groups, and they chose a cover that was nothing like the American version. The book failed miserably in Europe. With all their resources, they couldn't find a cover that helped the book sell. 


You probably don't have the resources of the major publishers. With that in mind, here's how you should go about picking a cover design for your next book. Pick something that appeals to one person, you. Whatever grabs you, that's the cover for your book.


-Richard

 

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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The will

Don't burn yourself out



1,016 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: cover, marketing, design, formatting, promotion, cover_design
1

A couple years after my first novel was released, I noticed a title on Amazon with the same name. I read that book's description and realized it was also in the same vein as mine, which had been featured on the front page of the Life section of USA Today and also (briefly!) reached No. 2 overall on Amazon. In other words, it was not hidden under a rock for those in the publishing world. Curious as to why the author (and/or her publisher) would choose the same title as my book, I went to her Author Page on Amazon. It was blank. Then I looked her up on LinkedIn. Nothing. Then I typed her name into Google. Zip. Then Facebook. Nada.


If I'd been able to connect with my book-title-twin author, who knows what might have happened? Maybe we'd have ended up sharing marketing stories. And ideas. And readers. Now we'll never know.


Are you easy to find online? If you're not making tons of money off your book(s), you should be, because you never know what opportunities might pass you by because no one can find you. Opportunities don't come around every day for authors, but if you're reading this post then you already know that.


Even if you do nothing else to market your book, why not fill in your Amazon Author Page and provide some contact information? It's so easy. And it's free! It's not like you're giving away your Social Security number and your mom's maiden name. A simple email address will do. If you're worried about being deluged with messages, you can set up a specific email address just for this purpose.


Here's a link that explains how to complete your Amazon Author Page.

Here's what mine looks like.


What are you waiting for? Do it!


-Maria


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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Marketing Tip: Set up an Author Page on Amazon

Have you created your Amazon Author Page yet?

1,022 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, marketing, self-publishing, promotions, author_central
0

How to scare readers

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Sep 11, 2017

Do you want to know how to scare people? I mean really scare people. We all have our fears. Public speaking, bear attacks, heights: you name an object, animal, place, state of being or activity, and you will find someone who is absolutely terrified of it. The problem is that not everyone is afraid of the same thing. You could write a truly terrifying novel about a bear going on a summer-long man-killing rampage in a national forest, but it may only find a limited audience because you focused on the device of your horror and didn't delve into the cost. 


To write a horror novel that is universally scary, you have to do one thing. You have to make the readers care. Namely, you have to make them care about your main characters. When your readers have an emotional investment in your protagonist, they will fear the potential loss you have in store for them. If a bear stalks a stranger, it offers some thrills and tense moments, but if a bear stalks someone you've grown to know and root for, it chills you to the bone. You know the cost if the character is lost to a brutal bear attack.


As an example, the horror classic Halloween does a superb job of getting you to care and then scares you to death. First, we get to know Laurie Strode. She's a good kid that loves her parents and feels a little awkward in her skin. She has a rapport with the kids she babysits, and she's a good friend. We like her. We care about her. We are terrified for her.


Remember, your scare tactics in a novel become universally scary when you make your readers care about your characters.


-Richard


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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Horror and the Subgenres

The Elements of Horror

672 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: marketing, author, horror, writing, horror_genre
1

Your brand's obit

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Sep 7, 2017

 

I had once shared on this blog a character development strategy I had learned in college. It was simple and slightly morbid. Our creative writing instructor had us write obituaries for our characters. It turned out to be an incredibly effective tool for developing characters. You never understand someone, even a fictional someone, more completely than when you lay out their accomplishments in obituary form.


It occurred to me recently that you could do the same for your author brand. I know that sounds a bit nuts, but hear me out. Consistency is a key component to building a successful brand. That consistency comes from understanding what your brand is. As we've discussed previously, your author brand is a hybrid between a personal brand and a corporate brand and that can be a tough tightrope to walk. The more you understand what your brand stands for, the better you will be able to deliver that message with consistency.


In your mind, separate yourself from your brand image. Sit down with a notebook and a pen and scribble out a lifetime of achievements for your brand. Personify your brand. Pretend it once existed in the real world and lived a life like anyone else. Did your brand fight for injustice? Did your brand spend its life hobnobbing with celebrities and live a more external life?


Have fun with it. Nothing is out of bounds. Your brand can be as simple or as grandiose as you want it to be. Just make sure that it reflects a message that you can consistently deliver for the life of your author's brand.


-Richard


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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Branding: The rule of consistency

Consistency: how to develop a living platform

957 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, branding, character_development, author_brand
4

If you?re still puzzled by the concept of show vs. tell, you?re not alone. I think many authors tell too much because they want to make sure their readers "get it." To that I say, "We get it!"


I recently finished a novel in which the author repeatedly explained why the characters were doing or feeling certain things when no explanation was necessary. As a result, I had a hard time getting through the book, and unfortunately I did not enjoy it.


Here are some examples, with some details changed:


  • I woke up the next morning with a headache from drinking too much vodka.


      The issue: I already know the character drank too much vodka, because the previous scene was all about that..


  • I pulled my hand back. Noticing the gesture, Ron asked, "You okay, beautiful?"


      The issue: I can infer that Ron noticed the gesture. If he didn't notice it, why would he ask the narrator if she is okay?


  • I looked at him and felt my cheeks flush with embarrassment.


      The issue: If her cheeks are flushing, I can infer that she is embarrassed.


  • I pulled out the pen and notepad I always kept in my purse in case I wanted to jot something down.


The issue: I know that a pen and notepad is there to jot something down.


In each of these examples, by telling me what was obvious the author pulled me out of the story. This happened over and over, and instead of getting immersed in the fiction I found myself thinking, "Why does the author keep telling me this?" You want your readers to feel engaged, so let them by trusting them to "get it."


-Maria

https://createspacecommunity.s3.amazonaws.com/Resources Contributors/MurnaneHeadshot.jpg


Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.

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Show vs. tell: examples

Are you breaking the show vs. tell rule in your dialogue?



837 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: books, writing, showing, telling, writing_advice, author_advice, show_vs._tell
2

 

There would have been a time that I would have steered authors away from participating in short story collections. Such collections appeal to a niche audience. Traditionally, they don't sell as well as novels or even novellas, and they usually offer no financial benefit to the author. But, upon further consideration, I have a different attitude today about short story collections.


It is precisely because they have niche appeal that they could be highly successful in today's fractured publishing terrain. Today, genres and subgenres and sub-sub-genres are the norm in publishing. Readers who prefer paranormal young adult techno-punk romance most likely will find exactly what they are looking for with just a few minutes of browsing on their favorite retailer's website. And those readers are likely to have hundreds or thousands or even more like-minded readers that they are connected with who will spread the word about books they've discovered that match their very specific tastes.


It just stands to reason that a pool of readers who enjoy short story collections also exists. With that in mind, I now see the value in short story collections, but there is a catch. These collections can't be random stories. The stories must share a theme. For example, having a collection of short stories written by new indie authors isn't likely to do well, but having a collection of short horror stories written by new indie authors has some promise. Define the genre down to the sub-genres and even deeper, and your collection of short stories has an even better chance of finding niche readers en masse.


Whether you're putting together a short story collection or you?re asked to participate in one, make sure the collection has a theme that will appeal to your readers.


-Richard

https://createspacecommunity.s3.amazonaws.com/Resources Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

You may also be interested in?

 

The Rise of the Sub-genre

Find Smaller Markets to Sell More Books

 

 

 

 

728 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, self-publishing, writing, story, genre, craft, collections, writing_advice, subgenre

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